Capturing Wildlife Photos at Tampa Bay Beach

by Larry Tiefenbrunn, Inventor and CEO of Platypod,

December 6, 2017 is a day I will never forget. I had just flown down to Tampa on my way to appear on Scott Kelby’s “The Grid” together with portrait photographer and Photofocus editor, Levi Sim. Before I even landed, Levi messaged me that he and his buddy Jason Hahn, professional wildlife and nature photographer, were going to pick me up from the airport and take me out to an alligator park. As it turns out, our schedule did not allow us to go that far out to see the alligators, but we did stop along the way to Kelby One to take some photos at a beach alongside the Courtney Campbell Causeway.

I had an outstanding opportunity to watch the pros do their stuff. Levi, who never breaks a sweat in hat and bowtie despite 80 degree humid weather, was interested in some macro shots of barnacles, which he shot with his Panasonic Lumix and Lensbaby Edge 50 lens braced on the Platypod Ultra with a Vanguard ballhead.

Jason, on the other hand, focused his Canon 5D Mark IV and the Tamron 150-600mm G2 Zoom on a little Dunlin. When shooting large telephotos at extreme ranges, keeping the lens steady is key to creating sharp images.

While it can be difficult to balance a big super zoom like the Tamron when kneeling on the sand, the Platypod Max with an RRS BH-55 ballhead was the perfect platform for this situation.  This allowed Jason to compose his low angle shot with incredible stability and accuracy, developing beautiful bokeh both in front of and behind this diminutive bird while capturing some height in the tiny waves.

Jason Hahn wildlife photographer.jpg
 ©2017 Jason Hahn

©2017 Jason Hahn

From what Jason tells me, the Dunlin is a type of sandpiper that lives along coasts all over the northern hemisphere.  This one is in non breeding plumage, in the summer months they migrate into northern Canada to breed, where their feathers will look quite different.  Their name literally means "little grayish-brown bird”- not that imaginative, but accurate. Dunlin flocks are often huge (up to 1500 birds have been recorded) and synchronized in flight.  They use their coordinated flight to help avoid  predators like Peregrine Falcons and Merlins. Groups of Dunlin are known variously as  a "flight", "fling", and "trip" of Dunlins.

Next, Jason decided to hone his skills on a member of another species, me. This was a really nice example of an environmental portrait, capturing the mundane parking area behind me in contrast with the avian wildlife before me. This could only be achieved from the super low angle that Jason attained with his stable ballhead on the Platypod Max. Man I look good!

larry t bts

The Platypods got a little wet and pretty full of sand. Jason was well prepared with a natural hair paintbrush, which he used to simply  dust off his Max. When he gets home, he can easily rinse it off with soap and water since the system is completely washable.

This was fun. Next time we go for the alligators.